CATEGORY: Data Integration
REVIEWERS: Ben Harris, deputy secretary of operations and information technology, and Glenn Palmiere, information technology director, for Florida Department of Children and Families.
BACKGROUND: The Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) is the largest government agency in the state of Florida. DCF serves millions of clients statewide with programs designed to provide care and support for Florida's most vulnerable citizens.
PLATFORMS: DCF is currently running applications on multiple hardware platforms including IBM and Unisys mainframes, UNIX servers, NT Servers, 2000 Servers, AIX P series, SUN Servers and Unisys ES7000.
PROBLEM SOLVED: DCF applications are developed based upon requirements for social services programs that are based on directives from the state legislature. The applications are specific to each agency program and have been implemented and deployed over more than two decades. By early 2003, DCF had information about clients residing in multiple disparate databases including IMS, Oracle, Microsoft SQL, DB2, Access and Visual FoxPro. Because this data was being accessed by 59 different applications without any communication among these systems, it was virtually impossible for workers to get a complete perspective on any individual. Our goal with the Ensemble platform and underlying architecture is to integrate the information in all these systems in a single composite portal application that provides a unified view of all relevant data about an individual client in a program series called OneFamily.
PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Utilizing InterSystems Ensemble's graphical, XML- and code-based development environment, DCF created a test bed integrating information from five systems. Ensemble features a Universal Service Architecture that provides consistent efficient object and service representation of the wide variety of programming models and data formats in the DCF environment. This architecture made it possible to use the latest Web development technologies to access legacy data and functionality as reusable Web services and XML components. As a result, there is no risk of being locked into J2EE or .NET-specific products. Additionally, Ensemble includes a persistent object engine that manages and stores all meta data, messages and process state information, enabling real- time access to live and previously processed messages for high reliability and recoverability for long-running processes.
STRENGTHS: An architecture that provides the ability to rapidly integrate multiple disparate applications, technologies and databases is a key Ensemble strength. DCF was able to go live with a composite application just 90 days after the project was initially conceptualized. Other key product strengths include the ability to access information at whatever layer is most appropriate (e.g., data layer, application layer or Web services layer), persistent real-time activity monitoring and Ensemble's extensible, integrated management and monitoring facilities for rapid problem diagnosis and debugging.
WEAKNESS: Ensemble enables integrating applications that can be deployed (and managed) on multiple platforms including Windows, HP Alpha, UNIX, HP-UX, IBM AIX, Linux and SunSolaris. However, the Ensemble development environment is currently offered on a Windows platform. InterSystems plans to address this issue in 2004.
SELECTION CRITERIA: DCF examined multiple integration solutions with a rigorous set of selection criteria that included capabilities for rapid development and integration, real-time activity monitoring, support for fast reporting of fairly complex data, ability to enable access to data and application functionality at multiple layers depending on varying requirements and strong management functionality. Ensemble proved to be uniquely capable of addressing all of these requirements in a single, architecturally consistent product.
DELIVERABLES: Ensemble has delivered a holistic view of information about a single client across five different application systems. We are now on schedule to continue integrating a minimum of five applications each quarter so that we will eventually have a completely integrated view of client data across all 59 DCF systems, enabling the agency to achieve optimal services delivery for clients from their community caregivers. Additional deliverables include extensive reporting and automated management that will enable us to cut support requirements for some applications by as much as 50 percent, resulting in significant cost savings.
VENDOR SUPPORT: InterSystems provided extensive support for the initial Ensemble implementation and consistently delivers rapid response as questions arise. We are highly satisfied with our working partnership.
DOCUMENTATION: Ensemble includes comprehensive, highly usable documentation as a component of its installation kit. When Ensemble is installed, documentation is available in soft copy with an easy-to-use help index that makes it possible to begin using the product immediately.
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